Linus was joking about NSA backdoor

But such government pressure on technologists is all too possible and real

By Natasha Lennard

Published September 20, 2013 3:03PM (EDT)

 Linus Torvalds  (Wikimedia)
Linus Torvalds (Wikimedia)

Like a number of other commentators, I took seriously Linus Torvalds' joke Thursday that the government had asked him to install a backdoor in his open-source operating system, Linux.

While it's a relief that Torvalds has flatly denied receiving any such government pressure ("Oh, Christ. It was obviously a joke, no government agency has ever asked me for a backdoor in Linux," Torvalds told Mashable . "Really. Cross my heart and hope to die, really"), such government intrusion into the very structure of the Internet is all too real.

As RSA Security's warning to developer clients this week confirmed, NSA pressure saw the very mathematical algorithms used in standard encryption weakened when developed to enable NSA surveillance.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Backdoor Joke Linus Torvalds Linux Nsa Operating System Surveillance